Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 16 News List

Parodic pastiche

`Epic Movie' is not very epic, but it is littered with scatological humor

By A.O. Scott  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Indie film buffs who shun Hollywood won't find much to laugh about in this parody of big-budget movies.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF FOX

I can't say that I was surprised to learn that Epic Movie would not be screened in advance for critics, but I must say that my feelings were a little bit hurt. A crude, scatological parody of a handful of big-budget, inexplicably popular movies from the past two years — what would be more likely to warm a critic's withered, cynical heart?

20th Century Fox, which released the movie — it mocks (and thus promotes) some of the studio's own product — might have feared negative reviews. More likely, Fox executives figured that reviews would be irrelevant, since Epic Movie, like other examples of its kind (including Date Movie, also the work of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, writers and directors of this one), is a piece of film criticism in its own right. It is irreverent and also appreciative, dragging its satiric prey down to the lowest pop-cultural denominator.

The target audience is anyone who has seen, ideally more than once, Nacho Libre, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the X-Men pictures, Superman Returns and The Da Vinci Code — among others.

That's me! And also, more germanely, the 14- and 15-year-olds who had apparently been excused from school to attend a noon showing at the local multiplex. They seemed to have a good time, especially when women in bikinis showed up on screen or when there was a joke involving urine. (Both things happened a lot.)

The humor is coarse and occasionally funny. The archly bombastic score, by Edward Sheamur, is the only thing you might call witty. But happily, Jennifer Coolidge and Fred Willard show up, as the White Bitch and Aslo the Lion, to add some easy, demented class. Coolidge is greeted, by Kal Penn, with "Whoa, Stifler's Mom," a tribute to her role in American Pie, a movie that would qualify, to most of the audience, as "old."

So would this critic, who nonetheless was amused by the parodies of MTV Cribs and Punk'd, and was further relieved that, unlike the movies it sends up, Epic Movie is short.

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